Renewable Energy Ballot Question a Step Too Far, Farmington Hills Officials Say
Take our poll: Will you vote for Proposal 3, which aims at getting 25 percent of Michigan's energy from renewable resources by 2025?
While Farmington Hills city council members generally support the idea of increasing Michigan's use of renewable energy, they'd rather not see a goal of 25 percent by 2025 enshrined in the state's constitution.
"I like the idea of renewable energy, I'm just not sure this is the way to get there," council member Ken Massey said at a study session Monday.
Officials learned more about the ballot proposal from Hugh McDiarmid, Jr., a Farmington resident and communications director with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC). He said the ballot question came about because the state legislature has had no interest in the proposal.
"The only movement in the legislature is to repeal the 2008 law," McDiarmid said, referring to a requirement for 10 percent renewable energy by 2015.
Council member Nancy Bates said the state should wait to see whether that goal is reached, before increasing the standard. McDiarmid said that leaves "job creators" in the renewable energy industry are "in limbo".
"If we wait until 2015, we're sort of on the edge of a cliff," he said.
Fuel costs affect imported coal
McDiarmid said the state currently gets about 60 percent of its energy from coal, which has to be imported from other states. As a result, the cost of coal is affected by the price of motor fuel and has increased 71 percent over the last four years.
Ballot proposal 3, McDiarmid said, would define renewable power and set standards for where facilities can be located. It also sets a rate cap, so that if the cost of implementing the higher goal is greater than anticipated, utility companies will have a longer period of time to make it happen.
He said the proposal would result in lower levels of pollutants, provide good jobs and help keep energy rates more predictable. "We spend $1.5 billion to import coal, and all that money is lost to our economy," McDiarmid said. "We'd like to take some of that money and keep it in our economy."
He said the cost of implementing the 2008 legislation has been "considerably lower than even the most ardent opponents predicted." McDiarmid also acknowledged that while increasing renewable energy can be cost-effective for rate payers, stockholders get more out of incentives for making capital investments, like power plants.
"We are working on how to reward the utilities (for increasing renewable energy investment)," he said.
Bates said she has heard changes coming to the renewable energy industry will make it more expensive.
"The thing I still struggle with is ... amending the state constitution," council member Randy Bruce said. "I just hate to legislate through the constitution, even though I think a lot of stuff in here is great."
"There's major issues with these technologies," Massey said. "Otherwise, companies would be flourishing, rather than ... imploding and becoming untenable. You're trying to force this through constitutional change. I'm very uncomfortable with that."
McDiarmid offered to have the MEC's "policy wonks" address some of the questions officials raised in an email that he would forward to city manager Steve Brock, for distribution to the council.
Additional information about the ballot proposal is available at mienergymijobs.com.